Flash Fiction Friday: Reading the Bones

I really enjoyed the 100 word challenge on Madison’s blog a couple of weeks ago. For that I produced a story about mushroom love – and hate. It worked out far better than I thought it would. Inspiration hit at the right moment, and I made it into three sets of 100 words, which rounded off a neat piece of very short fiction.

Normally, you see, I write extremely long stories, which can psyche me out slightly.

Sadly I didn’t get around to trying last week’s challenge, but I am submitting my 100 words quite early this time. It feels great! I’m hoping that these short challenges will become severely habit-forming as  they are a perfect mental break from working on longer pieces. I find it refreshing to do them and it’s enormous fun to read other people’s interpretations of the same image or writing prompt.

I love the way a complete story can be cribbed from such a concise number of words. If you like them can depend on how much you like open-ended narratives, although I personally prefer some resolution.

This is Madison’s entry for this week, Grave Digger. It’s great, so do take a look and  leave lovely comments there as well.

My own 100 words really feels like the opener for something much bigger. I’ve stuck to 100 words this time but I find it fascinating how the mind comes up with narrative – and restrictions (self-imposed or otherwise) often only aid this sort of creativity.

Anyway, please check it out below. I hope you like it. I’m looking forward to reading what you make of ‘Reading the Bones’:

Reading the Bones

Rattling the cup in her hands, the young seer tipped the cluster of ancient bones out onto the rock’s flattest surface and traced their outlines briskly with her fingertips.

“Very interesting,” she said. “It says that you are destined for great and amazing triumphs. That the world will bow at your feet. That the changes you wreak will be felt for eons to come. Your name will go down in history. And, also, something incredibly strange.”

“Strange how?” the witch’s guest enquired nervously.

“Well, according to this – these are your bones.”

The young otter looked at her in astonishment.

Flash Fiction Friday: Reading the Bones

Blast from the past: Coffee lover

I Heart Coffee (Image by Alchemical @ DeviantArt

I was excavating on my old Myspace account, which I hadn’t been to since 2007. I was pleased to find it still existed and thought I’d update this blog with a blast from the past. I might be making this a regular feature given all the older blogs, and other writing I’ve done before.

I found the Myspace account really interesting to revisit, as in 2005-2007 I was just learning how much fun it was being an opinionated blogger and I had the added bonus of only being 26, and therefore even more rabidly opinionated about STUFF that bugged me than I am now. Now I just sigh very sadly(!)

In the Blast From the Past I’ve re-posted below, I cheer on the delights and the great importance of COFFEEE to the writer’s psyche.

Also, I HEART coffee. I HEART it so very, very much.

This is my October 6th 2006 ode to the brown stuff, which came to me during a satisfying trip to Costa Coffee over lunch, back when I didn’t need actual food to make it through a work day:

Musings of a Coffee Addict

Current mood:fullI wrote this in ol’ fashioned biro while on lunch during one of the grubbiest days of the new season. Well, the weather’s clearing up and I feel hopeful about several situations. I hope the run-up to the weekend is going as well for anyone reading this!Musings of a Coffee AddictI’m writing this on a late lunch while sitting in a popular coffee house (in what is laughably named the ‘city shopping centre’). I’m enjoying possibly the most exquisite medium latte and gooey chocolate twist I think I’ve ever had.

I think it’s important to note that I’ve used ‘coffee’ in the title, rather than the more prevalent ‘caffeine’ as the difference is important in this context.
Firstly, because caffeine can be gained from a whole range of products, but most on’t match up.

Coca-cola – caffeine delivery is cold and there’s too much sugar
Pro-plus – Caffeine delivery is a snarling pitbull which provides no mellow rise and thrashes your brain so it’s no use at all
Chocolate – has many great qualities, but lacks a soaring sense of caffeine delivery. Sugary, but ok for emergencies (I hear a yachtsman survived on it while waiting for rescue, so it’s not bad at all)
Instant Coffee – I’m sorry, but, why bother? It’s hot water that smells like coffee. If you’re lucky it’s a close texture. But its abilities are very limited.

Ok, so that oh-so-scientific analysis has left us with the good stuff. Brewed, stewed, smooth, and delicious.

I love coffee for a very good reason. Whether or not, as the coffeeshop I’m in claims, it really was used by monks to meditate (surely some of the jumpiest meditating monks around), it’s the writer’s friend. I can sort of see why it would give those meditating after it a bit of an edge…

The best coffees – that’s best prepared, nice beans, yummy milk – will set loose a slew of happy cognitive thoughts in a sharpness of enlightenment. It hooks random thoughts, pictures and daydreams and reels them onto your page, screen or canvas (or, ok, conversation among the more sociable. heh).

This makes is more valauble than any of the thought-smearing properties of drugs or alcohol (I confess to innocently limited experience in the former). But have you tried pinning down a drunken thought? Momentary illumination aside, can you even rememberhaving those thoughts in the first place? It’s like looking at the flashes after a camera’s gone off – temporary burns on the retina/brain and then zap. Just a headache to show for it.

Coffee provides a laser-sharp accuracy of thought and rapid correction if it’s a little skewiff. How quickly we can choose our priorities, see our dance moves more quickly (if there’s a quiet space in the office, ahem) nad send witty messages to friends whilst simultaneously filling in a spreadsheet and writing a shopping list. When coffee caffeine has you in its sturdy grip, there seems to be little you can’t achieve. Or it’ll feel like that for a whole morning. Which is good. Particularly on a Monday. Particularly now it’s getting dark again.

At the very least, coffee gives you confidence that kicks alcohol’s arse – for a start you can string facts together and the worst you’ll need is a breath mint.

Case in point – an ex-BBC news reporter came to do a talk at my university. There was an oppertunity to meet him afterwards at the student bar. He ran late, and by the time he wandered in I’d downed two Bacardis and coke (with coke…I know, how rough), and my ambition and nerve had dropped to zero. I slunk out after a few minutes, gradually kicking myself as the day went on. My opinion now is that, maybe with a good coffee in my system, I could have let that moment of go-getting clarity propel me into his attention.

I’ll never know for sure, and on that minor anecdote I’d hate to think I’d need a coffee foreverything. I’ve had experiences at writing courses and at work where a coffee’s definitely given me the edge required.

When I’ve visited London, it tunes me into the vibes of its grubby thundering streets. I can’t face dodging pedestrians down Oxford Street, or surviving Waterloo without it!

The point is that a well-percolated cup of the steaming black stuff (Bovril excluded) is just necessary for those of us requiring a push in the right direction, ideally putting us into a sober-drunk mindset.

Coffee can add to aggression, sure. Woe-betide the idiot who plays a Lily Allen song directly after my first cup. Coffee is the warm storm in a mug, and there are a million coffee shops in the UK because we’re all hooked. Caffeine addicts are amongst them, but there’s a culture of lounging in such places that adds to coffee house appeal. They must be doing something right.

Coffee houses are cosy hide-aways. They’re the only place where it’s really socially acceptable drink a beverage by yourself in a lunch hour – where you can be seen toenjoy this time to yourself. You’re not unsociable, or friendless, you’re drinking coffee. In many cases this happens adjacent to reading a paper (broadsheet, naturally), or they’re on a laptop, scribbling, or tending to kids in a pushchair. It’s still a warm, bustling place where you can lose yourself and be yourself at the same time. All the while cuddled by (hopefully) comfy sofas and hot milky foam.

Not that there aren’t some shite ones….

If, like today, everything gos entirely right and your latte has the most beautiful creamy foam on top, your chocolate twist is utterly unscorched, the staff are friendly AND it’s a FRIDAY – then you might be inspired to scratch out an awkward love-letter to a place and drink that comforts and awakens the brain. Even as you notice that, with gruesome inevitability, your personal hour is up and you must battle the wind and rain to get back to work.

Have a good weekend everybody. More soon, including reviews of Theatre and other random thoughts from the bottom of the cafetiére…

Incidentally, there are two other things that mirror the effects of coffee. Red wine and Jack Daniels. Red wine must be Shiraz and stain your lips like cheap vampire blood. JD must be without anything but water/ice and taken sparingly, and only if your acerbic senses are already a bit, er, turned on.

Blast from the past: Coffee lover

Flash Fiction Friday: Broken Mushroom

Broken Mushroom - Flash Fiction Friday prompt

My first try at Madison Woods’ ‘Flash Fiction Friday’ which she runs on her marvellous blog. It’s a great way to get some words out of me at the end of the week!

Here’s my attempt below. Did I mention I can’t write short things? This grew and became rather morbid. I hope that three sets of 100 words count and that they can each work as single stories. Couldn’t resist adding to it when I located a mini ‘arc’ regarding mushrooms, and pondered on their lethal possibilities.


Matty: I hate mushrooms. They’re slimy and full of sporesI mean, even in a stew, when broiled to tasteless nothing, I just don’t trust them not to fill me with nasty dots that grow and grow. I’ll wake up and look like a mushroom. They’re dirty as well, hauled out of the ground where animals poo and people tramp the earth. I stamp on mushrooms when I see them, and wash my boots before coming inside. They’re nasty things, I’d like to wipe them out. Disgusting. I’d break them all now if I could.
Kathy: Mushrooms make a dish taste fabulous, that’s what I told Matty. He hates mushrooms, though, and simply can’t stand them. Now I’ve put them in his favourite soup, cream of chicken, and I’m only going to tell him what he ate after he finishes the whole bowl of it. Once he’s tried them he’ll know how amazing they can be. I know he’ll love these in particular, because Darren from the local farm shop got me some wonderful ones that I know will make him enjoy mushrooms for the rest of his life.

Darren: Kathy is going to regret humiliating me at the last garden party. She kissed me all during the speeches, behind the greenhouses, and then made me look a total fool. She says it meant nothing, that I’m no one, that it was ‘only a bit of fun’. How dare she? Now I’m going to make her pay. I’ve swapped her ordinary mushrooms for some deadlier ones, some notoriously hard to trace Amanita phalloides. I was worried when she said my nephew Matty was joining her today, but he hates mushrooms, so there’s no way he’ll suffer like she will.

With some apologies to ‘Debt to Pleasure’. You’ll have to read it to figure out exactly why. Also, I was put off big blackened mushrooms after scoffing a big steak-mushroom on toast a few years ago. There was something not quite right about it and this put me off any mushrooms for ages. Getting over it now, though.
It’s also inspired a totally unrelated short story ideas for an entry to Innsmouth Press’ latest anthology. If I can write it fast enough. That’s what I’ll be doing this weekend, then! Lovecrafty goodness.
Flash Fiction Friday: Broken Mushroom

Twittering and DOING

I love Twitter. It’s a great way to meet lots of other writers, to find fresh articles and pictures that stimulate the curiosity cortex, and to help out other writers and fledgling film makers most of all. A Retweet (RT!) goes a long way, I think. There’s a great Karmic feeling about the whole thing.

I also have over 110 followers now. Yay me! I never thought I’d even get that many, but they’re breeding (er…) and I don’t even think any of them are the ‘twitter porn’ people who keep trying to ‘follow’ me and who I keep reporting as spam. If you only Twitter in proverbs and your website reads ‘big-hot-cocks’ I think I might spot you’re not going to be fun to follow. Incidentally, who the hell IS following them?

Accidental porn sites aside, Twitter is a fantastic way to connect and publicise. A few other people have worked that out, too. Only thing is, the more I get into it, the more tempting it is to keep clicking and clicking on new and exciting links. I’m getting much better at filtering these ‘Tweets’ though. Once you realise what’s being repeated by people understandably trying to promote the same thing a few times in a row, it’s easy to pick and choose what links to try out. New ones, mainly. Repeated tweets are useful for when I get behind on reading the tweets. More on that in a moment.

I also try very hard to retweet and get paranoid about missing people off! Basic rules for retweets are:

1) If it’s funny. Each to their own…

2) If it’s startling – not always the same as funny.

3) If it’s a book I’m intending to buy – & if it’s the Amazon UK or Smashwords link.

4) If it’s re a film I’ve watched on YouTube or similar, or want to see soon.

5) Awesome pictures which fall under first 3 categories

6) Charity. If I agree with it.

7) News articles. OK, usually ‘comment’ pieces on the Guardian/Telegraph

8) Simon Pegg has said something cool. Neil Gaiman also. Joe Hill too!

9) Anything about Ridley Scott’s latest projects.

10) @DaftLimmy has said something not involving the ‘C’ word…

That’s all the reasons for RT’s I can think of for now. Fairly accurate examples, these are most frequent spurs for me to hit the magic RT. I like being able to help out other writers, for what’s it’s worth anyway. Feedback is great and Twitter can be a wonderfully friendly place, as long as no one has actually heard of you.

Anyway, this is what I look out for. The more people and companies I follow, the more interesting Twitter becomes. However, it’s also MORE DISTRACTING.

Watching those ‘new tweets’ pile up when trying to do something else is terrifying. But I’ve had to come to terms with it. I close the ‘Twitter’ window because I can’t read them ALL. It’s impossible. I can check it twice a day, trying to restrict myself. I’ve lost evenings to it, drawn into opening one more link in a fresh tab, until all the tabs are unreadable and the laptop is whirring like an overly-laden Battle Cat. 

Basically, I need to learn how to use the Lists more effectively.

As a writer, dodging Twitter addiction is an important step. This is probably coming across as an excuses sort of post, for why I’m not typing every day. It’s not. Not exactly. It’s about recognising that I don’t HAVE to use Twitter all the time. Like any distracting part of the internet (read as: the WHOLE internet) it’s possible to make it work FOR you, rather than being sucked into that endless loop of ‘new tweet-click on link-look at link-open new tweet’. Yesterday I had a job interview, and felt like crap, and spent the day preparing for the interview or reading, catching up on blogs and trying to reconnect a bit that way. In the evening I read an actual book, too. Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, in fact. But later today I’ll be catching up on ALL the tweets from, say, the last fourteen hours. Tops.

Twitter is a really vital tool, and with the genius linking website Pinterest, and the now ubiquitous Facebook around as a mere starting point, the aim of today is not to get lost in ‘social media’, but to produce work AND make the most of such amazing resources. People can be pickier than ever. It seems to be a case of tracking down people who are picky on the same letter. Oh, and having your own content helps, too.

Time to write. Or at least start properly. Am I using this blog as therapy? Oh yes. But I #amwriting, dammit…!

Twittering and DOING